There is an old African American Spiritual we have in our hymn books called “There is a Balm in Gilead.” I remember singing this song with some gusto when I was a kid, and even more when I figured out I could replace the world balm, with bomb! With implications for the current situation in the Middle East aside, I thought it was funnier that way.
There is nothing funny in our reading today the plaintive cry is “Is there no balm in Gilead?” Things are bad, and God through the prophet Jeremiah is grieving mightily. “For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.”
Often when Judgment comes, it comes not as an act from a vengeful God but because of our own actions, or inactions. This grieves God deeply because God wants better for us. When I have had to discipline my children it has never brought me joy, in fact, it has just the opposite effect.
God asks that we return to his healing balm, his love and and his will for our lives so that we might live and live abundantly. The good news, and I am going to have to remind myself of this as we read over Jeremiah, is that God is a persistent God! In the midst of everything good and bad, we need to remember that God doesn’t give up on us, even when we have given up on ourselves and God. The promise remains, hope remains, God’s love for us never dies, it mourns when we go wrong, but it never dies.